Jake Widman uses a hardware store analogy to explain the perils of desktop publishing. Giving someone a computer and telling him to create a newsletter or an annual report, says Widman, is like taking someone into a hardware store and saying, here, you can find everything you need to build a home, so go ahead and build one.

"To build a house that stands up and keeps the rain out requires a certain amount of expertise," he says. "And the same is true with desktop publishing."Personal computers, layout software and laser printers have, in the past six years, turned hundreds of thousands of businesspeople into instant "desktop" publishers. But many of them have no background in graphic design or typography, Widman says, and that means that their newsletters, advertisements, menus, flyers and annual reports aren't as effective as they could be.

Widman, senior technical editor of Publish magazine in San Francisco, will be keynote speaker at a one-day desktop publishing conference - "Laying It All Out" - on Thursday, March 21, at Salt Lake Community College.

The conference will also include breakout sessions on software and other computer tools; on typography, computer illustration and other design skills; as well as practical application tips and the legal aspects of desktop publishing.

Widman, who edits a "makeover" section of Publish - showing befores and afters of layout and design - lists four common mistakes of beginning desktop publishers:

- Filling up every inch of space on a page with type or clip art. If you squint, says Widman, all the pages look a uniform gray. Leaving an appropriate amount of white space, on the other hand, "gives air to the page" and helps direct the reader's eye to important copy.

- Printing newsletters in colored ink on white paper. "People think color adds punch, but it just makes it more difficult to read," he says.

- Giving everything on the page equal emphasis by using too much of the same style and size of typography. Good graphic design makes use of a variety of type sizes, and a variety of bold and light.

- Using too many "tricks" in an effort to give variety to the page - especially too much use of type that employs shadows and outlines. The important concept to remember, he says, is "simplify, simplify."

For more information about registration and costs for "Laying It All Out," call Salt Lake Community College, 967-4214.